You’ll have to forgive the geeky, thinly-veiled Apple commercial to follow, but I’ve had this conversation enough that I feel the need to write it down. I’ve had a variant of this chat with one or more friends at least once a month for the last I don’t even know how long. It’s cropped up particularly often since I made the switch from Linux to a Mac last year, so I figure I’m about due for a post on it.
I have friends and some of these friends are computer people. I say “computer people” in the same way you might say “car people” or “bike people.” These are the sort of folks who can tell you–without referring to a receipt–the exact processor, motherboard, video card and amount of RAM in their machine. Some of them will do it with almost no prompting.
If you play the noun substitution game, swapping “motherboard” for “carburetor” or “derailleur,” you’ll notice a conversational template emerge common to all “-philes,” no matter their drug of choice. They care deeply about the names and numbers, and if you aren’t using the right names and numbers you’re doing it wrong, no matter what you happen to think.
In the interest of full disclosure, I used to be a computer person myself. I don’t know if I got wiser in my old age, more apathetic or just overwhelmed with shifting priorities, but at some point I stopped caring about all that stuff. Now? I care about how easy it is to do things.
I’ve also come to hate fiddling with technology. Whenever my printer stops working, my network goes out to lunch or some electronic device fails to speak the same language as my machine, I start seeing red and have to take deep breaths. It’s 2012, and while I can accept the lack of a flying car in my driveway, the idea that anyone should ever have to know what brand of video card they have is as nuts to me as having to know who made their car’s transmission.
So last year, after more than a decade of running Linux and the occasional version of Windows, I bought a Mac. I didn’t do it for the supposed cool factor, the shiny case or the specs printed on the box. I did it because I wanted a computer that just worked, that also had a decent command line.
Spec-wise, the Mac Mini I bought isn’t going to win any awards. In fact, I’m told the numbers are pretty much crap. But you know what? I still get my work done faster and more easily than any other person I know.
Hands down, the Mac gets out of my way and lets me get on with my life better than any other system out there. The consistency of its interface is amazing, there’s an uncanny level of integration between the programs I run and Apple seems to be the only company on the block that realizes people use computers to do stuff and not just for the sake of using them.
When I explain this, my computer people friends look at me like I have two heads and start speaking with that “how naive” tone in their voices. Then they laugh because I can’t change the system font, or the color of my windows. Or that the icons on my Dock bounce when I click on them.
‘Cause, of course, important stuff like that is what makes or breaks an OS.
It’s exactly the same sort of look and speech I get from some people when I admit I have no idea what PSI I have my bike’s tires inflated to.